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Blue Earth will share virus relief funds

BLUE EARTH — The Blue Earth City Council wants to help local businesses and organizations as much as it can by sharing the $241,390 the city recently received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, Economic Security program.

The council this week looked at a proposal on ways the city’s CARES Act money could be used locally.

About $21,000 could be used by the city itself for items related to the COVID-19 emergency.

There would be $25,325 divided among city agencies, such as the library, senior center, liquor store, Ag Center, and police and fire departments.

Another $83,600 was earmarked as possibly going to entities such as United Hospital District, St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center, Blue Earth Area Schools and others.

“We would also have $100,000 available as grants to local businesses,” said city administrator Mary Kennedy. “It could be made in $500 grant increments to a lot of our businesses.”

There are several issues with the funds, however, Kennedy added. One is that the money needs to be dispersed and spent by Nov. 15.

“We would need to start getting funds dispersed as soon as possible,” she explained. “The money needs to be given out, spent appropriately, and documentation on how it is spent returned to us, all by Nov. 15.”

The other issue is there are only certain things the funds can be spent on. It cannot be used just to replace lost revenue. It is for necessary expenditures due to the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19.

The council discussed possible ideas for ways the funds can be spent, but Kennedy said the city may not want to make too many suggestions, and instead let businesses decide.

The council voted to move forward with the plan as far as the business grants program and the city departmental proposals are concerned.

In other business, the council:

o Voted to adopt new hours at the Blue Earth Wine and Spirits municipal liquor store of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

o Heard an update on the various street construction projects from city engineer Wes Brown. He noted that the first lifts of asphalt were being installed on the Sailor Street and Leland Parkway projects, as well as the City Hall/library parking lot.

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